As the use of AI expands, Congress seeks to curb it



There is a bilateral agreement in Washington that the U.S. government should do more to support development artificial intelligence technology. The Trump administration has shifted research funding to AI programs; President Biden’s science adviser Eric Lander told AI last month that “American economic prosperity depends on fundamental investment in our technology leadership.”

At the same time, parts of the U.S. government are working to set limits on algorithms to prevent discrimination, injustice, or waste. The The White House, lawmakers from both parties and federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and National Institute of Standards and Technology all working on accounts or projects to limit potential AI shortcomings.

Biden ‘s office of science and technology is working to address the risks of discrimination caused by algorithms. Law on National Defense Approval passed in January introduced new support for AI projects, including a new White House office to coordinate AI research, but also asked the Pentagon to assess the ethical dimensions of the AI ​​technology it acquires, and NIST to develop standards to keep the technology under control.

In the past three weeks, the Government Office of Accountability, which audits U.S. government spending and management and is known as the custodian of Congress, has released two reports warning that federal law enforcement agencies are not monitoring the proper use and potential errors of algorithms used in crime. investigations. One aimed face recognition, others on forensic algorithms for facial, fingerprint and DNA analysis; both were prompted by the legislature to investigate potential technology problems. The third GAO report set out guidelines for responsible use of AI in government projects.

Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and New Technologies, says the bustle of AI activity provides a case study of what happens when Washington wakes up with new technology.

In the mid-2010s, legislators did not pay much attention as researchers and technology companies led to a rapid increase in the capabilities and use of AI, from winning the champion in Go until the introduction smart speakers in kitchens and bedrooms. Technology has become the mascot for American innovation and the scene of conversation for some technocentric legislators. Now the talks have become more balanced and businesslike, Toner says. “As this technology is used in the real world, you have problems to which you need policy and government responses.”

Face recognition, the topic of AI ‘s first summer holiday report, has attracted special attention from lawmakers and federal bureaucrats. Nearly two dozen American cities have banned the use of local government technologies, usually citing concerns about accuracy, which studies have shown is often worse in people with darker skin.

The GAO Technology Report was requested by six Democratic representatives and senators, including the chairpersons of the House’s oversight committee and judicial committees. It found that 20 federal agencies hiring police officers use the technology, and some use it to identify people suspected of crimes during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol or protests following the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Fourteen agencies procured face recognition technology outside the federal government – but 13 did not track which systems their employees use. GAO advised agencies to closely monitor facial recognition systems to avoid the possibility of discrimination or invasion of privacy.

The GAO report appears to have increased the chances of bipartisan legislation restricting the government’s use of face recognition. At a hearing of the House Justice Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism and national security held Tuesday to overcome the GAO report, Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), chairwoman of the subcommittee, said she believed it underlined the need for regulation. The technology is not currently restricted by federal law. Ranking member representative Andy Biggs (R – Arizona) agreed. “I have huge concerns, the technology is problematic and inconsistent,” he said. “If we’re talking about finding some significant regulation and oversight of facial recognition technology, then I think we can find a lot of common language.”


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